Quebec Government's Plan to Block Online Gambling Challenged

Published July 16, 2016 by Lee R

Quebec Government's Plan to Block Online Gambling Challenged

Quebec's legislation goes against the tide of public opinion.

The Quebec government's recent announcement to require Internet Service Providers to block unauthorised gambling sites has already met a challenge.

Source of Opposition

Immediately opposed by many as a breach of internet freedom, a form of censorship, and beyond the scope of the province's jurisdictionary powers, the first formal protest against the legislation first proposed in early 2015 has been filed.

The Filing

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has filed a request with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission CRTC that the federal regulator declare the law unconstitutional.

The Problem

External PIAC counsel Geoff White asserted that “Bill 74 violates a long-standing recognition of federal jurisdiction over telecommunications” raising his own organization's concerns as to “what could happen if one province is allowed to order ISPs [Internet service providers] to block certain websites.”

The Purpose

The legislation initially was drafted to divert revenues from “unauthorised” gambling sites to Espacejeux, the website run by Loto-Québec, which would also compile the list of unauthorised sites.

The Provincial Position

The government defended the law as a legitimate measure within the provincial powers to regulate gambling and promote health and safety, with the Quebec National Assembly approving the new provision in May as part of Bill 74.

Costing ISP's Already

ISP's are already incurring new technical costs while they evaluate how to comply with the new rules and block certain sites specifically in Quebec but not outside the province.

Call for Quick Resolution

White called for a commission decision to avoid “an unnecessary and protracted constitutional debate, given the very clear past rulings of the Supreme Court.”

Federal Government Stance

The decisions he is referring to include the June ruling by Canada's top court over the site of a new cell tower reaffirming that the federal government has authority over telecommunications (as opposed to the smaller provincial authority of Quebec).

Quebec Minster Responds

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao responded via e-mail that Quebec province officials have “reasonable assurance that we are acting within our jurisdiction to protect consumers and fight against the risks of gambling.”

Outlook

This is the ideal time for the CRTC to chime in, and the commission's ruling will go a long way towards determining if the Quebec ISP blocks will ultimately be allowed to stand.

See also

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